Into the Foolishness of God

The power of coming into agreement with God's Word and will

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The following Facebook post by writer Lore Wilbert is bold and strong and necessary, like a much needed shot of espresso on a dreary morning. She speaks with grace and conviction. Dear believers, something precious is getting lost in the shuffle of our ridiculous obsession with popular opinion.  We are called to first and foremost to holiness. Does anyone remember that word? God is called “HOLY HOLY HOLY” two times in the scriptures and that’s a big deal. The heavenly hosts repeat it three times. This isn’t a quality that exists in a vacuum, out in space somewhere. It comes to us through God Himself, as we are conformed to His image. There are some very loud voices speaking the name of Jesus and preaching a one-sided gospel. It’s a self-serving gospel devoid of a cross, absent of repentance and absent the chance for true freedom. Jesus does not cheer us on to chase our sin, no matter how “brave” or “authentic” we think we may be. We don’t get to choose our own truths, and I for one, am grateful for that. “You must be holy because I am holy”, Jesus said (1Peter 1:16). When something is made holy, Biblically speaking, it is set aside, consecrated and made pure. It’s not a joyless pursuit, but it does require sacrifice, and death to self. People who ebb and flow with the cultural tides are not brave, they are taking the easy way out.

“If people start talking about “my truth” and “your truth,” look them right in the eyes and love them best by speaking the truth. There’s an awful lot in the world that’s not certain, but there’s an awful lot more that is. So rocky as life may seem, seek & find truth. If Jesus is your Savior/Lord, then the biggest truth is His way is the way to life. All of His ways. Not just ones that fit your narrative.

Listen to me, sisters: I’m not going to try to be subversive or coy about this: right now there are women whose blogs you read and books you love to quote who divorced their husbands for a myriad of reasons and are marrying other women. They’re captivating you with their stories, they’re drawing you into their narratives, they’re snaring you with their joy. Listen to me: it’s a trap. It’s a trap they don’t even know they’re setting and they don’t even know they’ve walked into.
I try not to be too noisy about things like this online, but my heart is breaking in a thousand pieces over the past few weeks as I see the fruit of their pulpits eek its way into my sisters lives.
The way of Jesus is narrow—and full of joy. The word of God is hard—and obedience always is. The help of the Holy Spirit is near—because you will need his comfort.
If you’re confused about any of this, the theology, the choices, the decisions made by these women who might have said and taught some things that have *really helped you* in some ways, or even what I’m saying here, here’s what I think you should do: go to your pastor or an elder, or a woman you know who really loves and cleaves to the word of God with her whole life, and lay all this before them, and ask them their thoughts. I’m not your pastor or teacher. But neither should these popular bloggers and teachers be. God, in His goodness, designed the local church to be able to more effectively shepherd you than any blogger, book-writer, podcaster, or conference teacher can or *should.*
Again, though, flee from anyone who starts talking about their truth or yours. Jesus said in this world we will have trouble, and saying there’s only one truth is exactly why. ” Lore Wilbert

Go forward in love, always. Also go with wisdom and discernment, popular does not always mean correct and the joyful way is narrow. The Church doesn’t need any more self-help gospel, we just need people who cleave to the Word and who are willing to practice what they proclaim.

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“But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action.” James 1:25 (The Message)

Catching a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God… and sticking it out to it’s promised conclusion, that’s a big deal.  I don’t normally read the Message version of the Bible, but I just love how this verse expresses the idea of sticking to God’s Word and not being a “scatterbrain”. The New King James version puts it a bit more delicately and tells us that the person who looks into the “perfect law of liberty” is someone who won’t be a “forgetful hearer” but will be blessed.

Have you ever found delight and affirmation “in the action”?  Have you ever looked intently into God’s Word, caught that glimpse of truth, stuck with it, and found total joy in the obedience of doing what He says?

When we catch that glimpse, that Holy Spirit nudge, that free life… there’s no changing our minds or turning back. James doesn’t mince words here, he’s telling us that just hearing the word isn’t going to cut it, we have to be doers of it as well. When James tells us to look intently into God’s perfect law, the word he uses implies bending down and getting close to it, examining it face to face. He reminds us that it’s useless to learn something and immediately walk off and forget what was taught. It’s like when people say they took three years of French in high school and can’t remember a single thing. Or if you’re like me, any form of math. I didn’t value it, I truly didn’t care and so, in one ear and out the other!

This verse is so rich I think because it doesn’t stop at the hearing part. It’s showing us the entire life cycle, if you will, of how obedience to God plays out. We will find delight and affirmation in what we do because He’s the one who told us to do it.

Maybe He’s calling us to let go of something. He’s probably also telling us there’s something worth holding on to that needs some healing. Whatever He’s nudging you about, lean in a bit and put in the time to discover what it is. There’s not much room for fear or doubt when you heed His instruction. This verse assures us we won’t be a distracted scatterbrain if we focus in on God’s promptings. That “free life” we are all chasing lies just on the other side of obedience to His Word.

Anyone can drink their coffee and casually read the Bible. What we do when the Holy Spirit starts pushing us in a specific direction makes all the difference. He’ll push us towards things we may be hesitant to get near. He’ll pull us away from unhealthy stuff we may not want to let go of. The beauty of that obedience is that it really does bring that free life, if we can just commit ourselves to bending down and examining closely what Jesus is freely telling us.

Delight in doing what He tells us to do.

Affirmation in our circumstances because we obeyed.

What a great amount of heartache we could probably save ourselves if we bent down a bit more often to examine His word to us. Lord, teach us that when we catch a glimpse of your truth we need to stick with it and see it through. Show us how it isn’t enough just to hear your words, but that the true joy lies in obeying them and seeing the results!

 

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I saw an Instagram post yesterday with a framed picture by a fireplace that read very simply “Fidelity to the Word of God and not to an outcome.”

The quote under it, from author Lore Ferguson Wilbert stuck with me all day:

“I made it as a reminder for us and those who cross the threshold of our home. We don’t play chess with our lives, making the most strategic, financially savvy, career-making, and good for mostly us decisions. We walk by the words of scripture, the Living Water, and the book of Life. Nothing else trumps the word of God.”

The chess thing really struck me for some reason, perhaps because my 10 year old recently taught me how to play and I’m really bad at it. There’s a purpose and an end game to every single move you make. You need to not only watch what you’re planning, but what your opponent is cooking up. There’s short-term tactics and long term strategy. You gather information and store it up. It’s fascinating, but can be mentally exhausting.

Like a giant game of chess, many people are just out to make the “good for mostly us” kind of decisions. We’ve been conditioned to make moves based on where it’s going to land us on the board. Life has taken on the appearance of a giant competition, and seemingly those who know the game are the ones getting ahead.

Of course, we are given brains and logic by God Himself to make wise decisions about our lives. We aren’t robots and we aren’t cave people. Life requires all kinds of judgments on our part to keep moving, and naturally we want to do what is right for ourselves and families.

If you’ve walked with Jesus for any amount of time you’ve probably come to realize this truth: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts. ” Isaiah 55:8-9

I think we often read this and think “oh well, God knows best, que sera sera… whatever will be will be.” That’s flying blind and I don’t think that’s what He intends for us. Once we understand that instinctively our thoughts don’t always match up with His, (we have this thing called flesh, it has a tendency to get in the way a lot) we can also see that that’s not the stopping point. His thoughts and ways are higher (better) than ours. Not unattainable, just something greater to which He desires to reveal to us.

Paul tells us that we have the MIND OF CHRIST (1 Corinthians 2:16), therefore we can be a part of these ‘thoughts and ways’ if we are surrendered to Him. When we have the mind of Christ, we desire what He desires. It’s naturally going to be the best thing for us, but we aren’t stuck in the prison of self-serving, self-promoting strategic chess playing with our decisions.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but it’s end is the way of death…” Proverbs 14:12

So much of it is a trap. You fight for something that in the end doesn’t satisfy, you burn bridges to get ahead when it only leaves you isolated and alone. We’ve all had our well-laid plans derailed and seen how in the end, God’s way was far better.

I don’t think we serve a God of chaos who just throws random circumstances at us willy-nilly to see if we’ll choose the right door, like some cosmic game of Lets Make a Deal. I actually think we often create our own chaos by not putting His precepts first. We could save ourselves a lot of confusion and heartache by doing what that little sign by the fireplace said. Focus on God, not the outcome. He has that part handled. When we make the Word of God our dwelling place, not just our drive-through, we actually enjoy just being with Him in the process. We attain the mind of Christ and His thoughts and ways. We can relax and not obsess over all the next moves, because God will reveal them to us.

The “good for mostly us” kind of lifestyle has left behind a trail of chaos in it’s wake. It trickles down from bosses to employees, friend to friend, parents to children. Have you seen any little league or kids sports lately? Just last week I saw an 11 year old get caught cheating and his response was “if you don’t cheat a little sometimes, you’ll never win.” I’d rather lose with my integrity intact, thank you very much. The point is, when we let God’s Words slip through the cracks in any area, we become a slave to self-centered positioning. It’s the natural progression everything will take if we take our eyes off Jesus, and it will always lead to an empty, unfulfilled, chasing-our-own-tail kind of life. I think God honors humility, not strategic moves.

Life is too short to be playing chess all day. We can’t see four moves ahead, and I think that’s not a bad thing. When we yell “Jesus take the wheel!” we actually should mean what we say. We don’t totally check out, but we do need to allow Him to show us the direction to go. We don’t have to be swindlers to pull ahead in life, quite the opposite actually.

Lord, may we delight in Your Words to us and desire to put them before any outcome we may desire. May we not obsess over attaining a position, but be humble in where we are placed and wait on You to promote us the right way.

Find something that reminds you and those you love of this truth: in this house, in this life, we put God’s ways above the ways of the world. We may lose position sometimes, but we will also gain it back, in unimaginable ways. Let Jesus be one who moves you around the board, let Him decide what gets sacrificed and what stays. He’s the outcome, He’s our end game. Fix your eyes on Him and watch as the rest flawlessly falls into place.

 

I’m re-reading some chapters of the book Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst and was struck this morning by this paragraph in which she addresses our never-ending need to be filled, with something… anything… that satisfies our deepest longings.

“If we grasp the full love of Christ, we won’t grab at other things to fill us. Or if we do, we’ll sense it. We’ll feel a prick in our spirit when our flesh makes frenzied swipes at happiness, compromising clutches for attention, paranoid assumptions with no facts, joyless attempts to one-up another, and small-minded statements of pride. We’ll sense these things, and we’ll be disgusted enough to at least pause… All these things we’re tempted to grab at? They won’t fill us the way they think they will.”

Frenzied swipes at happiness, paranoid assumptions, small-minded statements… all things we do in our flesh hoping for some relief, some acknowledgement that we are doing ok. She uses Paul’s prayer in Ephesians as a wonderful example of the difference between grasping and grabbing:

“I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to GRASP how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be FILLED to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:14-19

When we grasp (understand, take hold of firmly) the love of God and all the true riches He has in store for us, we are FILLED. Genuinely filled, like eating a healthy meal that nourishes instead of a temporary sugar or caffeine fix.

The world tries to get us to grab at any old thing for that fix. If we go out into the world, out into relationships expecting to be filled by them, we are going to be sorely disappointed. People disappoint. It’s inevitable and a part of human nature. If we are finding ourselves driven and controlled by things out of our control, we need to pause. It’s like putting water into a bucket with a giant hole at the bottom of it.

What’s the difference if we are rooted and grounded in Christ and His love? What if we let Him fill us up first and then we go out into the world, into friendships, into family life already satisfied and grounded in who we are?

We aren’t flattened by someone’s hurtful words. We don’t need to compulsively ‘fix’ every little thing. We aren’t obsessing about how or what or why or when (insert dilemma here) will be fixed. It’s not to say we’re ignoring life or problems, we just are grounded in Jesus and want to allow Him to steer the ship. We stop grabbing at what the world can do for us and we learn to grasp how profound God’s love is toward us and all our dilemmas.

Full, fulfilled, secure, accepted, content… these are all what comes when we allow ourselves to be defined by our Maker instead of other people. What a difference to go out into the world this way. We can be genuinely happy for others’ successes. Our ability to see the best in people replaces the side-eye cynical junk we’ve learned to live with because we’ve been hurt. We learn there is beauty in quiet surrender of things we don’t fully understand. The things we once grasped at become a little less intriguing in the light of being filled up with Jesus.

Jesus didn’t come so we would spend our lives grasping at straws and fretting over our position or status. Laying that stuff down isn’t easy, but how amazing that we have a Savior who came and actually told us to unload it all at His feet (Matthew 11:28).

He tells us to come to Him and He will give us rest. Make rest your starting point. Begin there, at His feet and get filled up. Instead of going out into the world as a sponge and soaking in all the things that never fulfill, go out already full and see the difference. Things don’t soak in as easily. We can discern things more clearly. Our emotions aren’t dependent on the actions of others. That’s how relationships thrive, that’s how our hearts come alive. No frenzied swipes at control, no weird assumptions that turn us into our own worst enemy. Just reliance on the One who asks us to sit quietly at His feet and get filled. The people who do that are the ones I want to surround myself with. I want to be like that. The freedom that comes when we let Jesus fills us up is better than any temporary success or self-made victory.

“The more you taste the sweet joys of Jesus, the more will sin taste bitter to your soul. Fight satan’s taunts with God’s pleasures.” John Piper 

 

camel_one_previous_owner4Photo courtesy: moxon.net

This post is about how to act like a camel, so bear with me for a moment.

Every once in awhile I come across a familiar verse and see it in a whole new way. There’s this little section in my Bible they call “word wealth” and it aims to reveal the true meaning behind certain words. The original meaning, from the Hebrew or Greek. What’s fascinating is that some of our English words just don’t cut it when it comes to understanding what God was conveying to us through His word. In the same way that Eskimos have several different words for what we just call ‘snow’, there are layers and meanings to our ‘ordinary’ words.

Here’s the verse, which we’ve probably all heard a few times:

“Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.” Psalm 37:5

Commit your way. Words like dedicate and devote come to mind. If I commit my way to Him I’m making a kind of pledge or promise to follow Him. All good things.

Here’s what my Bible had to say on it that just was such a powerful picture to me:

commitgalal (gah-lahl) Strong’s #1556; To roll, roll away, remove. In this text the reader is encouraged to roll his works into God’s care. The picture is of a camel, burdened with a heavy load; when the load is to be removed, the camel kneels down, tilts far to one side, and the load rolls off.

Did you catch that? Read it again. We’ve all probably seen a camel kneeling down to drink or let someone off it’s back. It has to get down on it’s front legs and roll the load off it’s back.

Kneel. And roll.

This is such a simple and profound thing for me. We all have loads to carry. Some is just life responsibilities, like work or kids or marriage. We carry them everywhere we go. It’s our God-given ‘load’ and in the right context, it’s a joy to carry. On the other hand, we pick up things along the way that are simply backbreaking, things we aren’t meant to haul around.

Guilt. Disappointments. Old scores to settle. Resentment. Opinions of others. What a long list we can all make.

Is your back hurting? Is your spirit heavy? God is saying it’s ok to bend the knee and take a rest. Furthermore, after you’ve bent the knee, feel free to roll all that junk right off. Lighten your load. Get rid of it. Roll it AWAY from yourself and ONTO a God who can actually do something about it.

How very freeing. Remember what Jesus says to us:

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28

Rest for your SOUL. I don’t know about you, but I desire that kind of rest. You know how you feel after a solid nights sleep? I imagine soul rest is even better and more important. It doesn’t mean the troubles disappear, it means though that they are off our backs. Rolled onto a Savior who willfully takes them. What is required of us? Kneeling and rolling. Pretty basic.

Ask God today what you need to roll off your back and onto Him. We aren’t required to walk around heavy-laden on the verge of collapse. It’s not heroic to be overburdened. Camels aren’t the most graceful of creatures I suppose, but neither are we when we are overwhelmed. Kneel down, awkward as it may be, and roll all that stuff off. I imagine we’d all walk a little lighter and straighter without a giant load weighing us down.

Blessings friends.

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Do you ever come up against people or arguments that are so one-sided, so determined to remain in their own four walls that you genuinely don’t know whether it’s worth it to fight or flee?

I watched a fascinating video yesterday posted on the Sheologian’s website about what happens almost weekly at an Arizona Planned Parenthood clinic between pro-life and pro-abortion protesters. There’s a pastor who shows up to talk with the abortion rights people. He asks calmly about their position and if they would please speak with him and have a conversation about what they believe. This is what happens: cowbell.

This lady stares into her smart phone and relentlessly shakes a giant cowbell in his face. She then says she doesn’t engage with crazy.

I began thinking about how much of our time is spent uselessly trying to argue against the cowbells. To be totally fair, I also considered the times I’ve spent being the one ringing that big ol’ bell.

Noise is nothing but a distraction from the truth. Truth is what leads us to freedom. If all a person can do is ring the cowbell and make more noise, there’s no getting around it and there’s certainly no hope for ever receiving any truth.

The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about foolish arguments:

“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him.” (26:4)

Strangely enough, the very  next verse seems to say the exact opposite thing:

“Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” (26:5)

 

Wait… are we supposed to engage or run? Fight or flee? I think instead of being opposed to each other, these two verses build upon one another. The first verse is warning us not to stoop to a low-level because it simply makes us into what we are standing against. It’s the whole “two wrongs don’t make a right” analogy your mom always told you when you were a kid. When someone is wrong, they only way they can draw you in is through deceit and distraction. The enemy would like nothing more than to see us all standing around shaking cowbells at one another because it distracts from what is really happening. It’s a lose/lose situation, even for the person who originally was standing on the truth.

Verse 5 is the different side to the same coin. It tells us to answer these arguments “lest he be wise in his own eyes”.  A right word at the right time can change everything. The point is not to shame someone and hammer them for being wrong, but to expose untruth and folly so we are not wise in our own ways.

What strikes me most in this story of the pastor is that he isn’t obsessing over winning or being right, he’s just desiring truth to get out there. Whether it’s accepted or not isn’t really his issue. He speaks it, but doesn’t get sucked down the rabbit hole of hostile and foolish arguments. God’s path to victory is often via a humble and low-road. The great thing about truth is that it doesn’t really need us to defend it. It just is. We stand up for it and speak it, but the fight isn’t really ours to take on.

Two strangers confronting one another on the street is one thing, but take this now and apply it to your actual life with family and friends. My eyebrows raise and my teeth clinch a little just writing that. Sometimes there are cowbells ringing all over the place, from the ones we love the most. At times it’s us holding up a giant noisemaker refusing to budge or hear any truth. Satan would like nothing more than to keep us clanging and shaking bells in each others’ faces. I love this passage from Lisa-Jo Baker:

“We are never in more dangerous territory than when we’ve been wounded by someone, and as we lie there bleeding and hurt, Satan tries to poke and prod and torture us into a reaction that is wildly out of proportion to the original wounding.” 

Wildly out of proportion. This is his trap, believers. The desire to be heard leads us down an irrational and ungodly path where truth gets tossed aside and our winning becomes the most important thing. We have to ask ourselves which we care most about, doing right or being right? I’m a huge believer in the notion that when we continue to do what is right in God’s eyes, according to His word, He will lift us up.

The noise of foolish arguments is designed to keep us distracted, spinning our wheels, angry, and obsessed with the wrong things. Cowbells are everywhere. I thank God every day that there is so much to be found in His Word to guide us around all this noise. If you’re holding up a big bell, consider setting it down and listening to the person in front of you, above all, consider listening to God. If you’re faced with someone ringing relentlessly in your face, ask for wisdom about how to engage. Or disengage. That’s the beauty of walking with Jesus. His truth is our most powerful weapon. Far better than a giant noisemaker.

IMG_0313“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James 3:17

A few weeks ago, I was walking past my kitchen table and saw this. My Bible was laid open from the day before, the sun was shining just right through the lights above the table. It lasted just a minute, but I’m glad I caught it. It slowed me down and gave me a smile. I sat down and just thanked God. I thanked Him for His love, His truth, His words to me.

So much wisdom and truth for our lives is contained in His word, and it’s so very easy to walk past it. We run to it in emergencies, but God intends it to be our DAILY bread. The fruit that grows in our lives is a result of constant abiding, not connecting and then disconnecting and then connecting again. A long, continual abiding yields fruit.

We need the wisdom from above. We need it because it’s the only pure thing we have. Our natural ways steer us towards anything but gentleness and mercy. Even on our best days we are still full of selfish, self-centered ambitions.

Gentle? Willing to yield? Not without Jesus.

Satan likes to complicate simple things. He wants to keep us away from these words of life, he wants us to think it’s too hard. Here’s a truth for you today: IT ISN’T!!!

God’s word and the understanding of it should be our very lifeline, not just another thing to check off after all our other lists are done.

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17). Do you see where it starts? Right there in His words to us. It’s our launching place from which everything else comes. Faith. Forgiveness. Direction. Wisdom for our actual lives, our very real issues and very big decisions we make.

This was a reminder to me to slow down and remember the simple truth that God loves us so very much and wants to just be with us. The rest will fall into place, we don’t have to strive for it.

Those who sow the wind reap the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7). Staying connected to Him keeps us from those consequences of our selfish ways. Our heart starts to beat in sync with His, we step when He steps, we wait when He waits… when we are full of His truth there isn’t room for all the other junk. We can be gentle when others are not. We show mercy. We have forgiveness. Best of all, we don’t go searching for love or accomplishment in all the wrong places.

Give His words a chance. He tells us that He will “open our understanding” so we can understand His words (Luke 24:45). Watch and see… He is closer than we think!

Walls-of-Jerusalem-300x225“When the world says, “Oh, you’re narrow,” you say, “Maybe I am narrow, but the way is narrow, and the path to heaven isn’t as broad as a 16-lane highway. You know why I am too narrow? I’m walking with my God.AW Tozer

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say something that probably isn’t the most popular of ideas: Christian friend, we need to get back to being narrow.

< sounds of heads imploding, hands going up in protest, fingers starting to point…>

Hold on a minute. Isn’t that what is getting us in all kinds of trouble lately with the world and the people we are supposed to be reaching? Our narrow-mindedness? Our total inability to include others and welcome them no matter what?

First and foremost, lets see what Jesus said about this narrow way:

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction.” Matthew 7:13

The gospels, by definition are narrow. Jesus presented a choice and just like His disciples, we are free to follow or continue on our own way. Following Him though, comes with some requirements. We have to deny ourselves and carry our cross daily (Luke 9:23). People who followed Jesus in His day lost a lot of things, but what they gained was immeasurable. The point made over and over in the gospels is that of a narrower path than what the world presents to us. We will be mocked because He was mocked. We will be rejected because He was rejected. Not once did Jesus appease anyone or bend the requirements for them. The narrow gate is smaller, but it is always open.

So what to do when the narrow way Jesus told us to take becomes (in the eyes of the world) the narrow-minded way? When standing on truth gets you thrown under the proverbial bus and labeled as a narrow-minded jerk?

Here’s an example fresh in my mind of how tricky this is becoming.

Months ago, popular blogger and Christian writer Jen Hatmaker came out in support of same-sex marriage as holy and acceptable. Predictable pandemonium ensued, many agreed and supported her and many disagreed with her. This is not surprising in the least. She came out with a blog post a few days ago in which she railed against the “Christian Machine” response to her new position and how utterly devastating it was, and linked it to Jesus’ pain and the mourning we feel on Good Friday. The response to this blog post was overwhelming sympathy and many stories from hurt people reiterating their painful experiences with this ‘machine’.

First, I don’t doubt for one second the hurt and pain we in this so-called ‘machine’ can cause one another. Harsh words spoken in an absence of love are no way to represent the true Jesus to people, saved or not. Without love, our message is doomed before it even gets off the ground.

That being said… the message of LOVE also comes with a partner and it’s name is TRUTH.  We’ve lost the conviction that God’s Word must come before the shifting tides of culture or the witty words of human authors. I’m not bashing the author, I think her heart is so very much FOR helping hurting and lost people. I just think we can’t dispose of doctrine along the way. Twisting and contorting scripture to make something appear to be harmless, so that all these hurting and lost people feel included isn’t our job. Our job is to LOVE the people and show them that narrow gate. We don’t need to apologize that it’s narrow, or try and explain the narrowness away… we are to show them to it and declare how fantastic of a gate it is. Demonstrate that it’s not actually confining, mean-spirited, or exclusive in the ways they think it is.

While everyone is focused on the mean-spirited ‘machine’, I have to ask a genuine question: do we even recognize anymore that Biblical discernment is necessary and that sometimes disagreement needs to be voiced? Not in a crazy hateful manner, but in a “speak the truth in love” kind of way. That’s mostly what I saw in response to Jen’s postings. Were some hurtful and wrong? Yes. But the vast majority reacted exactly how you’d expect them to react – with respectful and heartfelt disagreement. Did she lose sponsorships and business deals? Yes. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a “betrayal” or a “punishment” as she did. I’m sure that’s how it felt, but in the same way she stood up and declared a belief, so did those who disagreed with her doctrine.

Here’s the thing – it’s not all about same-sex marriage and it’s not all about Jen Hatmaker. It’s about sin and our desperate need for a Savior to deliver us from the grasp of it. He did just that. We are spinning our wheels when we focus on all the ways people have let us down, how the  ‘machine’ has disappointed us, etc. We who disagree aren’t all hateful, spiteful, backwards or closed-minded. A lot of us feel passionate about God’s Word and the freedom it gives when we allow ourselves to be set free by it.

The Bible tells us not to get wrapped up in foolish and ignorant disputes with people or engage in useless idle talk (1 Timothy 1:6, 6:5). Focusing too much on how awful those bad apples are only keeps us from seeing all the well-intentioned believers who may be standing nearby ready to walk us up to that narrow gate. Having pity-parties feels good for a time, but it’s a distraction that keeps us on the wrong path. I read plenty of loving responses to her statements that were also truthful. That’s how it’s done.

The flip-side of this is that we are not to be argumentative, but ready to teach and with all humility correct those who are in opposition to God’s truth, not so that we may be proven right, but so that they may escape the captivity of darkness (2 Timothy 2:25).

THAT’S how you demonstrate the ‘narrow-gate’ without being ‘narrow-minded’ as they say. The internet has created a kind of black and white world in which the end game is all about winning our side. Someone makes a declaration. People react. More people react to those reactions, etc. We need to step back and ask ourselves “what’s my purpose here?” Proving my point? Putting that person in their place? Useless.

Speaking truth in love in order to demonstrate to others the freedom the narrow gate offers? I’ll argue that point all day long.

 

“We want to matter to the people we think matter. We want the people we think matter to single us out. We want them to spend time with us. We want them to invite us in. 

We want in. Left on the wrong side of the door, we can regress into eighth grade versions of ourselves in mere minutes. We worry that we’re too tall, too short, too uncool or unfashionable or uncomfortable in our own skins to fit in. 

There is a voice that whispers all the reasons we deserve to be out – a voice that taunts. There is a voice that relentlessly lists every time we’ve found ourselves on the outside and actually revels in each remembering. There’s a mean girl inside us all who will hypnotize us if we let her. Everyone is on the outside of something, but that is only half the story. The GOOD NEWS is that we are all on the inside of something – often without even realizing it.” Lisa-Jo Baker

I cringe at the thought that there’s still a teenager inside of me someplace, that middle school version of myself that could be in the proverbial clouds one minute and crying in a heap on the floor the next. Friends, non-friends, cliques and classmates were the center of the universe around which everything else revolved. It wasn’t true of course, but that was my reality anyways. One day you’re in the group, the next you get passed a note on pink lined paper informing you “you’re out.” I’ll never forget at some point in seventh grade when I was told there was no more room at the table for me (the literal lunch table) and that I needed to go find a different place to sit. The world may as well have ended. We can all probably remember times like these, they play like cassette tapes in our heads. We have all been there, on the inside and suddenly on the outside. On the flip side, there are probably just as many times when we ourselves dished it out to someone, knowingly or not, and left them on the outside looking in.

In seventh grade I had no concept of a bigger picture, no grasp of how soon it would pass, and no understanding that most of these people wouldn’t matter in a year or two. I didn’t quite yet see Jesus as the friend I really needed, the one who would never leave. He was there, I remember, I just put things ahead of Him in the pecking order. I prayed and prayed to be let back into the group, not realizing I was already on the inside of a lot of other things. I had other friends. I had outside activities. I just chose to focus on the one thing I couldn’t be a part of.

I’ve read some lately about the mentality we develop that somehow there isn’t enough to go around. Enough of what, exactly? Good things. Success, happiness, joy. Invitations, likes on Instagram, places on the team. You name it. We gather our goods around us and hold tightly to them, while giving the side-eye to our neighbor if they have something good as well.

“Most people are deeply scripted in what I call the Scarcity Mentality. They see life as hiving only so much, as though there were only one pie out there. And if someone were to get a big piece of the pie, it would mean less for everybody else. People with a Scarcity Mentality have a very hard time being genuinely happy for the success of other people. The Abundance Mentality, on the other hand, flows out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security. It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody.” Steven Covey 

It’s like that idea of holding tightly to a handful of sand, the tighter you grasp, the more you lose.

I thank God for the things I’ve learned since middle school. I acknowledge that I sometimes repeat old patterns of my seventh grade self as well. The biggest thing I’ve learned? Maybe that we are designed by our Maker to be absolutely FILLED with His love first and foremost before we can even attempt to be satisfied by things of the world. Mark 3:14 says that Jesus “appointed the twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach…” They were to just BE with Jesus first. Here are the three words I’ve been pondering for a few weeks: ABIDE. DWELL. DELIGHT.

If we aren’t filling ourselves with Jesus first, everything else is going to fail before it even gets started. If we don’t take time to sit at His feet and soak in HIS peace, HIS truth, and HIS words to us, we are going to go out and grasp at everything we come across, begging it to fulfill us in a way that only God can.

If you know in your bones that you are complete in Jesus and fulfilled in Him… His desires become your greatest desires. How interesting. His ways are all about abundance, not lacking or striving. We are never on the outside with Him. When He becomes the center around which everything rotates, those insecurities and troubles don’t seem quite as debilitating anymore.

He tells us that in quietness and confidence is our strength (Isaiah 30:15). We don’t have to strive to get on the inside of anything, we need to simply sit at His feet and be with Him. Allow Him to bless us so we may go be a blessing to others. There is more than enough to go around, no matter what our seventh grade self may whisper to us. We are always on the inside with HIM.

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“You are loved harder and longer and more urgently than the ending of any Jane Austen novel.” Lisa Jo Baker, Never Unfriended

This quote cracked me up. If you’ve ever read through or watched a Jane Austen story, you know for the most part, it all shakes out in the end. The tangled relationships somehow untangle, the unrequited love finally gets acknowledged, romantic awkwardness turns into glorious togetherness… the universe stops colluding against our heroine and starts working in her favor.

We want to be pursued. We want someone to come knocking at our door. Not just in a romantic sense, but in a relational one as well. Since the earliest days in the Garden of Creation, we have been made to relate to one another and our God.

We spend an awful lot of time knocking on one another’s doors only to be disappointed when they don’t answer. We wait in vain on people to come to our doorstep, to pursue us, and we measure our worth by the frequency of knocks at the door.

Sometimes they don’t come. Sometimes all the wrong ones show up on our front porch. Either way, we miss something hugely important: the One who stands and knocks, softly, intentionally, lovingly, and passionately at our door 24/7. (See Revelation 3:20)

Jesus literally never tires of knocking. Ever. He passionately pursues us in a way the would make Mr Darcy look like an amateur.

“You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you…”

What if we allowed Jesus to tell us how ardently HE admires us?

Sadly, our culture values quantity over quality, we rarely allow relationships to root down deep, things get plucked up at the first sign of distress. We show up on doorsteps but rarely remain long enough to be invited in. Jesus not only knocks, but wants to come inside. He pursues, but He doesn’t come where He isn’t welcomed.  Before we are able to give ourselves in friendship, marriage, parenting… we must get our worth from Him alone. Allowing Him to love us and pursue us is a sure-fire way to get filled up with what we really need. Then and only then are we free and capable to give it away.

“…anchoring our identity in the God who is obsessed with spending time with us makes us freely available to give grace to our friends who literally, humanly aren’t able to make themselves that kind of available.” Lisa Jo Baker 

Friends, if we aren’t getting our worth from God, we are going to go crazy trying to get it from the world. Yes, we may be well ahead of some in certain areas, but there’s always something we are chasing as well. It’s a rat race with no end game and it will wear you out and choke out any relational roots that may be worth tending to.

Get filled up to fill others up. We all have doors to knock on and doors to answer. May we   allow ourselves to be pursued and chased after by a God who holds in His hand gifts we could never imagine.

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